Intel to delay launch of Ivy Bridge processors by 8-10 weeks

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 08:19
Category: News, Processors

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You know, nobody really LIKES the person who tells them “better late than never”, even though that person tends to be right.

That being said, Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, sized at 22 nanometers and expected to appear in Apple’s updated Mac lineup, will become available eight to 10 weeks later than originally planned, one company official has said.

Per the Financial Times, Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chairman of Intel China, revealed in an interview with the Financial Times that his company’s Ivy Bridge processors are now expected to go on sale in June. Those CPUs were originally planned to become available in April.

The apparent delay will allow Intel more time to manufacture the smaller, more complex chips. Maloney indicated that a later June launch was not prompted by a lack of demand.

The comments support a rumor from earlier this month that indicated Intel was forced to push back shipments of its Ivy Bridge processors to June. However, that same report claimed that a “small volume” of chips would be shipped in early April.

Earlier reports had suggested that Intel planned to debut a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors at launch. They would include 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook processors.

Initial chips are expected to include models 3820QM, rumored to be priced at US$568, and 3720QM, US$378, both of which are potential candidates for an updated MacBook Pro.

Reports from late last year suggested Apple was planning to launch its updated MacBook Pro lineup in the second quarter of 2012>. It was said the Ivy Bridge-powered notebooks would feature a Retina Display-quality screen resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels, exactly twice that of the 1,440-by-900 display currently found on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because Intel’s next-generation chip architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across, at a resolution more than twice that of 1080p.

The new Ivy Bridge notebook processors will feature Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. High-end MacBook Pros with dedicated graphics are rumored to be powered by Nvidia in Apple’s 2012 lineup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

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Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

So, let the floodgates open. If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple releases iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, hopes to resolve wake/reconnection issue

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iMac, News, Software

The firmware updates, they keep on rolling in.

Late Friday, Apple released iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, a 25.8 megabyte download that resolves an issue that may cause an iMac to not automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network after waking from sleep. It is recommended for all iMac (Late 2009 or newer) users running 10.7.3.

The firmware update is available either via direct download or through Mac OS X’s Software Update feature on a qualifying iMac.

If you’ve tried the iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0 upgrade and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to replace 30-pin iPhone, iPod, iPad connector with smaller alternative

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Date: Friday, February 24th, 2012, 07:10
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor

It’s a rumor, but it involves replacing the classic 30-pin connector you know, love and are readily familiar with on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad with something new, so proceed to panic.

Also, begin hoarding food, as this means the apocalypse is well nigh.

An unsubstantiated rumor claims that Apple is looking to replace the venerable 30-pin iPhone, iPad and iPod dock connector with a smaller, space-saving successor that will possibly make a debut in the company’s next generation iPhone.

According to the iMore blog, unnamed sources have stated that the iPhone maker found a way to make the connector smaller in 2010 to help accommodate for the iPhone 4′s larger battery.

Another factor is the connector’s role in data transfer. With the advent of iCloud, AirPlay and the energy-sipping Bluetooth 4.0, a future iPhone may only need a cable for charging purposes.

It is unclear what would become of the huge ecosystem of existing “Made for iDevice” products, which is a lucrative business for both Apple and third-party companies, as it would be made obsolete by a redesigned connector.

Details remain scarce at this time, but check back and we’ll get information up as soon as it becomes available.

iFixit studies iPad 2 display, purported iPad 3 display, finds evidence supporting Retina Display for iPad 3

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Date: Friday, February 24th, 2012, 07:31
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Yes, there’s more than a few iPad 3 rumors floating around at the moment, but a genuine comparison backed by video helps.

Per MacRumors, do-it-yourself site iFixit posted a side-by-side comparison video on Thursday between the alleged next-generation ‘iPad 3′ display and a replacement screen for an iPad 2, and results reaffirm previous reports that the purported new component’s pixel density is indeed double that of Apple’s current tablet line.

The site, well known for its product teardown and self-repair guides, used a USB microscope to shoot pixel-level images of a rumored “iPad 3″ display that was obtained by MacRumors on Friday through “unreported channels.”

Although last week’s report yielded compelling photographic evidence that the component was a QXGA screen with a resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels, the iFixit images are of higher quality and show more detail than the previous side-by-side photos. Clearly seen are individual pixels, with the new display appearing to sport a common RGB sub-pixel arrangement which is identical to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S’ Retina Display.

iFixit was unsuccessful in powering on the display due to a newly-designed LCD connector cable, but the USB microscope threw enough light to show that for each iPad 2 pixel, the new component boasted four. The finding is concurrent with reports that claim the pixel density of the rumored tablet will be around 260 pixels-per-inch. In contrast, the current generation iPad 2 has a 132 ppi pixel density.

While the estimated 260 ppi falls short of the 300+ ppi the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs described as being a qualifier for Retina Display status, it can be contested that because users hold tablets farther away from their eyes than a phone, the would-be “iPad 3″ specs are be enough to achieve a perceived pixel density similar to that of Apple’s latest smartphone.

The physical dimensions of the display are identical to that of the iPad and iPad 2, though iFixit notes that those thinking of swapping out their iPad 2 screens with this new “iPad 3″ model are out of luck. Besides the obvious incompatibility with current iPad logic boards, there have been no figures as to the screen’s power consumption and processor requirements.

Previous reports pointed to rumors that, due to a high pixel count, a so-called iPad Retina Display may need a backlight configuration consisting of two LED light bars to achieve brightness levels equavalent to current iPad models.

Apple is rumored to announce its next generation tablet on March 7, and will feature the rumored Retina Display, a redesigned case, a new processor and 4G LTE functionality.

Stay tuned for additional details and in the meantime, a little video never hurt anyone:



Apple releases firmware updates for early and late 2011 MacBook Pro, mid-2011 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 18:11
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released firmware updates for its early and late 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks as well as its mid-2011 MacBook Air Notebooks.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.7, a 4.1 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.4, a 3 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

The updates can be directly downloaded and installed or located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Intego announces discovery of “Flashback.G” trojan variant, advises caution

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 12:21
Category: News, security, Software

On Thursday, security firm Intego announced that it has discovered more strains of the Flashback Trojan horse. The company says that “many Mac users have been infected by this malware,” especially the latest variant, Flashback.G.

Per Macworld, Intego describes three unique methods that the Trojan horse uses to infect Macs: It attempts to exploit a pair of Java vulnerabilities in sequence, which the company says allows infection with no further user intervention. Failing those two approaches, resorts to social engineering. In that last case, the applet presents a self-signed digital certificate, falsely claiming that the certificate is “signed by Apple Inc”; if you click Continue, the malware installs itself.

To fall victim to the Flashback Trojan horse, you first need to run software. By definition, Trojan horses disguise themselves as other kinds of software, tricking the user into, say, double-clicking an icon to launch a new download—thereby infecting themselves. Note, however, that if you’re still running Snow Leopard and your Java installation isn’t current, a maliciously-coded webpage could cause the malware to install without further intervention on your part, depending on your browser’s security settings.

According to Intego, the latest Flashback.G variant can inject code into Web browsers and other applications that connect to the Internet, often causing them to crash. It attempts to sniff out usernames and passwords that you enter into many popular sites (like banking sites, Google, PayPal, and others), presumably so that the malfeasants behind the software can exploit that information in other ways.

As part of its installation process, the malware puts an invisible file in the /Users/Shared/ folder; that file’s name is variable, but it uses a .so extension. Other files the malware creates include /Users/Shared/.svcdmp, ~/.MACOSX/environment.plist, and ~/Library/Logs/vmLog. It also places a Java applet in ~/Library/Caches.

Intego has stated that its VirusBarrier X6 software can detect Flashback if it’s installed, and even prevent it from installing in the first place.

If you suspect you’ve already been infected, you can check by launching Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/) and pasting in the code below, and pressing Return:

ls /Users/Shared/.*.so
If the response you see in Terminal includes “No such file or directory,” you’re in the clear. If you instead see a list of one or more files with a .so extension and no “no such file” declaration, you may well have fallen victim to the malware.

If you do find that you’re infected, removing the files referenced above or installing antivirus software like Intego’s should remove any traces of Flashback.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or tried this fix, please let us know in the comments.

DDR3 DRAM prices drop to all-time low

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, News

If you were looking to upgrade your RAM, there’s literally never been a better time for it.

Per Macworld, prices of DDR3 DRAM memory used in notebooks and desktops have dipped to an all-time low of around US$1, and will continue to fall, which could help PC makers pack more memory into computers, analysts said.

Average prices for predominant 2Gb (gigabit) DDR3 DRAM die hit the US$1 mark during the first quarter, which is a massive drop from the average price of roughly US$2.25 for the same memory in the first quarter last year, according to research firm iSuppli. A 4GB (gigabyte) DRAM module was priced between US$18 and US$20 at the end of 2011, a precipitous drop from $40 at the end of 2010.

The price of a 2Gb DRAM chip was between 82 cents and 95 cents on Wednesday, according to DRAMExchange, a website that tracks daily memory pricing.

The drop in memory prices is a continuation of a trend from last year, analysts said. A shortfall in PC demand hurt memory pricing last year, but memory makers are still moving excess inventory into the market rapidly, which has contributed to the continued price drop.

“We’re at a historical all-time low, yes,” said Mike Howard, senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli. “It costs Dell and Hewlett-Packard less now than a year ago to put the same amount of memory in the PC.”

Instead of packing more memory, some PC makers have opted to load the same amount of memory in PCs to cover the rising cost of other components. Dell earlier this week said it was using the favorable memory and LCD pricing environment to offset the rising prices of hard drives, which were in short supply due to the floods in Thailand last year.

The DRAM industry fundamentals are weak, but memory makers are taking corrective action to balance supply and demand, iSuppli’s Howard said. Some of the existing manufacturing capacity is coming offline to reduce output, but the prices could continue to fall as long as the cost of making memory drops.

The pricing will continue to fall through the second quarter, said Shane Rau, research director at IDC.

“The issue is huge oversupply in the first and second quarter of 2012 and the resulting pricing competition among suppliers,” Rau said.

The DRAM market initially fell apart at the end of 2008 after the economic downturn prompted DRAM makers to reduce memory output. However, production went up the following year as PC demand recovered with the active refresh cycle and the release of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 in 2009, which allowed for a higher memory ceiling.

But PC shipments slowed down again in the second half of 2010 with growing demand for tablets and smartphones, which rely on different memory types such as low-power DDR and nonvolatile NAND flash memory. Some chip makers have now changed business models and are increasing focus on memory for tablets and smartphones.

Stay tuned for additional details.

In other news, I recently upgraded my 2011 MacBook Pro’s RAM to 16 gigabytes…and the ladies still haven’t really noticed.

Apple patent shows effort to develop thinner keyboards

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:51
Category: News, Patents

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Remember your Apple keyboard?

It might just be about to go through a training montage and get thinner in the process.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple may be looking to make its notebook computers and keyboard accessories even thinner and lighter with a brand new take on the classic input method.

Apple’s interest in reinventing the keyboard was revealed in a new patent application entitled “Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” it describes a handful of ways that a keyboard could be shrunk in size without affecting its performance.

In the filing, Apple notes that the size of existing keyboards presents a challenge for the company as it attempts to design thinner, lighter and more attractive devices.

“It would be beneficial to provide a keyboard for a portable computing device that is aesthetically pleasing, yet still provides the stability for each key that users desire,” the application reads. “It would also be beneficial to provide methods for manufacturing the keyboard having an especially aesthetic design as well as functionality for the portable computing device.”

One of the most common keyboard types is the “dome switch,” in which the key pushes down on a rubber dome located beneath the key. Other types of keyboards include capacitive, mechanical switch, Hall-effect, membrane, and roll-up, and each offer their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of two important categories: response (positive feedback that the key has been pressed) and travel (the distance needed to push the key).

Apple’s solution is a single support lever keyboard mechanism, which the proposed invention says would allow the keyboard cap to be formed of almost any material, but would also provide stability to each key.

The application notes that the material chosen for the key caps is very important, not only for the appearance of the keyboard but also how it feels on users’ fingers. The application includes a number of potential off-the-wall materials that could be used, like glass, wood, stone, and even “polished meteorite.”

Regardless of the material, Apple’s keyboard key caps would be held in place by a rigid support lever. With its design, the keys could have a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

In another method, Apple describes a support lever holding the key cap that would be made of a flexible material. This support lever could be made of spring steel that could allow good tactile feedback to the user when they are typing.

The key cap and support lever would have an “elastomeric spacer” between them and a metal dome positioned below. The spacer would be made of a material such as rubber or silicone that would “provide a desirable and distinctive feel to the user when pressed,” in addition to reducing rattling on the keyboard.

“The advantages of the invention are numerous,” the filing states, adding: “One advantage of the invention is that a low-travel keyboard may be provided for a thin-profile computing device without compromising the tactile feel of the keyboard.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed by Apple in August of 2010. It is credited to Patrick Kessier, Bradley Hamel, and James J. Niu.

Cool stuff if it happens and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Tipsters reveal hints as to why AMD “Llano” processor never came to MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:34
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Processors

If you wondered as to where the next-gen AMD processors might be on your MacBook Air, there’s a reason for that too.

According to Forbes, former AMD employees revealed that Apple gave its “Llano” chip a “close look” for a new MacBook Air model last year, but ultimately decided not to go with the processor because too many of its parts were faulty.

AMD has been through several reinventions in recent years in a quest to find a niche to call its own. The company was an early competitor to chip giant Intel, but it has struggled to keep up pace with its rival as of late.

Brian Caulfield reports that new “fusion” processors from AMD had a shot at upstaging Intel by making their way into Apple’s popular MacBook Air notebook for last year’s refresh. People familiar with the matter indicated that Apple had given the “Llano” processor, which combined the CPU and GPU into one part, serious consideration for use in its thin-and-light portable.

However, a former employee indicated that AMD was unable to get early working samples of the chip to Apple on time, though tipsters disagreed on exactly how close the company was to delivering the chip, with one claiming that AMD “had it.” According to the report, too many of the parts ended up being faulty and AMD lost the deal.

Sources also said AMD had proposed a low-power processor named “Brazos” for a revamp of the Apple TV box, but Apple declined to go with the option. “Brazos” went on to make inroads in the netbook industry and reportedly kept the company afloat.

“If Brazos had been killed, AMD wouldn’t be in business,” one former employee said.

A separate report from late last year also claimed that Apple had considered the AMD “Llano” option “plan A” for its MacBook Air, but AMD was said to have “dropped the ball” at the last minute.

Apple released the Thunderbolt MacBook Air last July with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors powering the notebooks. The machines became an instant success and reportedly jumped to 28 percent of the company’s notebook shipments just months after they were released.